Lucky or Prepared?

Dan Miller —  March 19, 2012 — 6 Comments

Until very recently, James Erwin, 37, was working for a financial services firm in Des Moines, Iowa, writing software manuals.  Pretty low stress, good pay and a very ordinary life.  One Wednesday last August, James walked to the company lunchroom, microwaved a Hot Pocket, walked back to his desk and logged in to one of his favorite sites –  Someone had posed a question – “Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion?”

Being a history buff, Erwin took 10 minutes to compose a 350-word entry.  Within an hour he was an online celebrity.  He added a couple more segments.  Within three hours, a film producer from Los Angeles contacted him.  Within two weeks, he was offered a deal to write a movie based on his treatment of the original question.  Within two months, he had taken a leave from his job to become a highly-paid, full-time Hollywood screenwriter.

So my question is:  “How close are you to that kind of major transformation?”

Was James Erwin just lucky?  Remember how we define “luck” – when preparation meets opportunity.  In 2009 James completed his Encyclopedia of U.S. Military Actions – an exhaustive description of every single American war, quasi war, occupation, landing, and expedition.  It’s a two-volume 700,000 word piece that retails for $185. He says it paid him minimum wage for the time he spent researching and writing.  A few libraries purchased it but overall it got very little attention.  But how did that add to his “luck?”  He was prepared for this unique opportunity when it presented itself.  Watch for Rome Sweet Rome from Warner Brothers – soon.


“To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents.  What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour.”  Winston Churchill


Are you prepared for your opportunity?

  • Michael Good

    What a story! Thanks for sharing.

  • Bruce

    Thanks for that post.  A few weeks ago I posted YOUR FINEST HOUR on 48 Days.Net; last night, amidst a trying situation, I had to take a few moments to think by myself and I heard that “still, small voice say “this is in preparation for YOUR FINEST HOUR” (vs. being discouraged as has been a mark of the past.  Now the story and the Churchill quote ending in HIS FINEST HOUR!  You have no idea what this does for me!  Thanks!!!

    • 48DaysDan

      Bruce – I’m delighted this piece helped inspire you.  Keep us posted when your finest hour shows up.

  • kimanzi constable

    What an inspiring story Dan and motivating. This is another example of why we need to take action. If he had never commented you wouldn’t be writing about him today. If someone doesn’t write that book or release that CD, who knows what opportunity they will miss. Don’t miss any opportunity with inaction!

    • 48DaysDan

      Yes it’s tough to know just what will provide that little “tipping point.”  People frequently ask me what was the one thing I did that provided the momentum we have at 48Days.  And I tell them I have no idea.  I just kept doing lots of little things.  Somewhere along the way, the tipping point occurred.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Stories like this are so inspiring! It lets me know that every little action I make moves forward towards the “big break.”